Theatre review: The Walworth Farce, Cottesloe, London

Cottesloe, London

Enda Walsh's characters are for ever trapped inside their own myths. In The New Electric Ballroom, three sisters endlessly relive their dancing youth. In this preceding play, a bullying Irish patriarch and his two sons immured in a high-rise London flat repeatedly replay a fictional version of the father's departure from Cork. Brilliant as the play and Mikel Murfi's Druid Company production are, I long for Walsh's characters to engage with the outside world. In this case, however, one is swept along by the play's manic exuberance. Dinny and his two sons daily re-enact a bogus account of the family history and the immigrant experience that involves frantic disguise and dressing-up. The crisis comes when a supermarket checkout girl, who has befriended the younger son during his brief shopping excursions, arrives to interrupt and ultimately destroy the trio's bizarre daily ritual.

You could see the play as a union of Freud and Marx. There is clearly something oedipal about the elder son's urge to impersonate his mother and kill his father. Equally, reminding us of what Marx said of history, the family's story reappears the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce. But I suspect Walsh's real target is the Irish propensity to hide disquieting truths behind fanciful myths. "What are we if not our stories?" asks one character. Eventually we learn that Dinny's appetite for myth is simply his way of evading hideous reality. It may be a staple theme of Irish drama, but it is here projected with head-spinning verve by Denis Conway as the Cork fabulist, Tadhg Murphy and Garrett Lombard as his two sons, and Mercy Ojelade as the hapless intruder. An intoxicating evening.


Michael Billington

The GuardianTramp

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